Was John Stockton a dirty player with the Utah Jazz?

John Stockton, Utah Jazz. (Photo credit GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images)
John Stockton, Utah Jazz. (Photo credit GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images) /

Superficially, John Stockton might’ve not looked like much out on the court for the Utah Jazz. But throughout his 19-year NBA career, he built a reputation for himself as a playmaker, booty-shorts wearer and one more shocking thing — a headhunter.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve covered each of the following:

As I researched these topics, I found source after source claiming the same thing: John Stockton was a dirty player. I didn’t seriously start watching Stockton until the 1996-1997 NBA season. I was six at the time, so the more subtle aspects of the game passed me by, but I remember Dennis Rodman swiftly crushing a cameraman’s gonads in Minnesota with his size-13 sneaker.

Was Stockton guilty of something similar I’d forgotten about? Could the “bad boy” image my parents shielded from my young, impressionable mind have been part of Stockton’s makeup?

No, not even close — Stockton wasn’t a dirty player.

What he did do was play harder than just about everybody else he’d ever gone up against. And if the opponent welcomed a heightened level of physicality, fine — tit for tat, Stockton was content to match it. Missing a mere 22 games in 19 NBA seasons will have that kind of affect on a guy.

First hand, Chris Webber experienced how physical Stockton could be. In an interview with Dan Patrick in 2016, he spoke of how — in spite of a warning from Rick Adelman — he went out of his way to rattle Stockton’s brain during the opening play of a first-round series in Sac City

It didn’t work:

A deeper dive into Stockton’s on-court conduct doesn’t lead to anything all that sexy, either.

Much like the game’s most intelligent (and undersized) point guards who came both before and after him, Stockton found creative ways to level the playing field — torso shots, scrappy defense, shoulder-leading screens and drawing fouls in ways very reminiscent of a certain James Harden:

Sorry, Utah Jazz fans — it looks like you might have some apologizing to do.

My favorite part about all of this, though?

It didn’t matter that Stock looked more like your local grocer than an NBA basketball player; he was never one to take any kind of cr*p from anybody. He certainly took his shots, but only when the first bloody blow came from an opponent — body-slamming David Robinson into the Spurs’ hardwood (0:14) and colorful trash-talking with The Worm (0:47) all came with the territory:

Fellow NBA white guy, Steve Kerr, once referred to Stockton as “a dirty b*stard.”

While there might be a hint of veracity to Kerr’s words, the undeniable truth found therein comes from John’s unrivaled determination to win at all costs — not from a propensity to hurt others. Stockton wanted to win basketball games; he used his basketball IQ to ensure that it happened.

End of discussion.

Next. 5 stars to pair with Gobert if he can reconcile with Mitchell. dark